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The Ransom Center is renowned for its extensive collection of literary manuscripts and archives. With particular strengths in contemporary American and British literature, modernism, Anglophone African literature, and French literature, the Center is also notable for its collections of the papers of publishers, editors, literary agents, and other literary organizations.

When Harry Ransom founded the Center in 1957, he swept aside the established collecting tradition that most literary archives and research libraries followed of seeking single, iconic manuscripts or books by major writers. Ransom's strategy was to acquire manuscripts as much as or more than rare books, to focus on modern and living writers, and to seek entire working archives that document the creative process and provide remarkable insights into a writer's working life.

The Ransom Center carries on this tradition today and has assembled an extraordinary collection of literary manuscripts and archives. Included are such unique and inspiring items as Charlotte Brontë's childhood writings, Jack Kerouac's notebook documenting his drafting of On the Road, and Edgar Allan Poe's desk. The Center houses and makes accessible the papers of more than a dozen Nobel Laureates, including Samuel Beckett, Gabriel García Márquez, Doris Lessing, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. The extensive records of influential publishers such as Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and McSweeney's reside alongside the archives of notable writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

It is a rich and varied collection representing many of the most important literary figures and works of our time.